Before the program started, my expectations were that I am going to see kids who are really uncomfortable and not adapted with the situation which they had to face. However, most of the kids that I saw in Jeb Jennine School were adapted to the environment they were in. More than that, from my conversations with the kids there, I found that they really love Jusoor’s school and enjoy going there every day.
When I arrived to Beirut, I was worried about being a teacher and taking the responsibility of managing a class, as I had no teaching experience before. The orientation days were really useful in terms of breaking the ice with the other members of the group and getting more familiar with what we are going to face during the program. All of the sessions were relevant and helpful as they gave us a concrete idea about the history of the schools, and plenty of scenarios that have happened in the past which may happen to us during the program. I learnt a lot from these sessions and I was feeling great being within a group of people who have come from different places around the world and have different backgrounds and experiences. There is one thing which is worth mentioning and it would be very practical to have in the orientation days. It would be useful if the volunteers can have the opportunity to meet the teachers who are teaching permanently in the schools. One face to face session between the volunteer and the teacher of the class will be great in order to know the level of the kids in English, talk a little bit about them, and set a brief agenda of what the volunteer can deliver to the kids during the 3 weeks of the program.
The first day at school turned to be easier than I have expected. In my first day, I was teaching students ages between 12 and 14. They were really behaving great and interacting with the lesson. That made me feel really pleased. Many of them were interested in English as a subject. In general, the first day was tiring and I realized that it is not easy to be a teacher as it needs lots of effort and requires full concentration during the whole time of the day. However, as this was my first teaching experience, I was feeling happy that I brought something to the kids and because there was good interaction in the class.
From my second day until the end of the first week, I was given a different class with smaller ages (9 – 12). My plan for these kids was to make them practice on Basic English conversations like introducing themselves. All of the kids in the class knew the English alphabets, and how to count from one to hundred. They also had little amount of English vocabulary. I felt that they need to be encouraged to speak more. The best part of the class was the revision time. I have set the first 10-15 minutes of the class dedicated for revision through activities and games which included the vocabs and sentences that they learnt in the previous day. I liked this part because I saw that the kids are learning something and enjoying the class at the same time.
One story that I came across that affected me and made me think about the instability that the kids are experiencing during their stay in Lebanon. During one of the revision sessions, I asked one of the kids a question and he did not know the answer because he was absent the day before. When I asked him why, he told me that he was working in the farm harvesting potato plants. That’s made me feel very sorry and speechless because all these kids really deserve a normal life like any other kid in the world. This incident made me feel frustrated thinking about the 310,000 Syrian children in Lebanon who still have no sort of education. The international community holds a huge responsibility to improve the living conditions of the Syrian families in Lebanon, and facilitating their life. Communities also need to put more effort to move all the families in the Bekaa area who are still living in tents to a better condition and more comfortable places.
In summary, this was one of the best experiences I have had in my life, and it was a pleasure to work with all of the people who were involved in the program. I wish to see many programs in the future like this great and well organized program by Jusoor which can link the Syrians and internationals outside Syria to the real situation on the ground. The program is a great example that shows that people around the world can do something and make a change no matter how small it is to the Syrian children’s lives who had no choice but to face these difficult circumstances. Honestly, after being through this short experience and seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces in the class, I felt that there is still a hope of changing their life and preserve their future.
Tarek volunteered at Jusoor’s educational centers in Lebanon during July and August as part of the summer volunteer program.